Case Studies

Lyttle Companies

Virginia-based wastewater infrastructure rehabilitation

In 1947, Stamie Lyttle and Fred Barnes joined forces to form Lyttle & Barnes Sanitation, a local plumbing company performing septic tank installation and maintenance. More than three decades later, Stamie’s son, Coleman Lyttle, now second-generation president and owner, established Lyttle Utilities Inc. (Lyttle Utilities) to tackle tough wastewater infrastructure rehabilitation projects throughout the Mid-Atlantic. Today, the companies operate under the Lyttle Companies (Lyttle) and the Virginia-based business has taken off as a multifaceted utility contractor.

“My father set out to start his own company post World War II as a self-made business man,” recounts Coleman. “He started the company with just about nothing and here we are now with more than 70 employees between both companies. We’ve been around for more than 60 years and we have a great reputation in the Richmond, Va., market and beyond.”

Out-of-the-box solutions

Coleman says Lyttle has steadily gained more market share by thinking outside of the typical underground utility box. In fact, Lyttle was one of the first regional contractors to use trenchless technology to remotely rehabilitate existing infrastructure.

“We don’t fit a mold like most of our competitors, meaning we don’t just do trenchless work or just excavation and utilities; we have a nice niche in offering both,” he expands.

Today, Lyttle covers all facets of the water and sewer infrastructure industry, from single-home residential repairs to the large-scale municipal wastewater projects up and down the Eastern Seaboard. “Lyttle serves residential, commercial, industrial clients, but the lionshare of what we do is municipal-based work,” details Coleman.

While Lyttle travels anywhere from Florida to Pennsylvania and beyond, the company remains based in Richmond, Va. “Our trenchless division covers a significant amount of ground, but the local residential septic work stays within a 2-hour radius of Richmond,” notes Coleman. “On the trenchless side we go where the work is and travel a lot further.”

In and out without a trace

Coleman explains how trenchless technology is in great demand throughout the East Coast. “From Richmond, Va., to Portland, Maine, most major cities on the East Coast have consent orders from the Environmental Protection Agency or their State Department of Environmental Quality to repair or replace old sewer pipes because we’re all so close to the Atlantic Ocean,” he says. “Leaky pipes allow the sewage to penetrate the ground water and ground water can also get in. Sewage treatment plants end up treating an overabundance of stormwater, so it’s a matter of keeping ground water out of sewer pipes and sewer water of out the ground by lining and repairing the aging pipes.”

Currently, Lyttle Utilities is a leader in trenchless technology and the division is the Lyttle’s fastest growing. Trenchless means replacement, rehabilitation, renovation, repair, inspection, location and leak detection with minimum to no excavation from the ground level, saving on time, money and costly restoration.

Lyttle also performs CCTV inspections on underground sanitary and stormwater pipes ranging in diameter from three to 24 inches. “The technology is pretty amazing; it’s almost like a video game,” says Coleman. “We have push cameras as well as crawler cameras equipped with pan and tilt viewing for pipe inspection.”

Once the problem is identified, the Lyttle team enters the system through a manhole to coat and line the failing infrastructure. “In Maryland, we’ve been on a six-month job to extend the life of a 50-year-old system that’s starting to crumble,” shares Marc Adams, project coordinator for Lyttle. “Going trenchless, you effectively double the life of the system, while reducing social impact.”

Lyttle has also recently implemented $7.5 million worth of underground infrastructure at the West Broad Village in Richmond. “This development is basically a self-contained community,” explains Coleman. “It’s been an interesting job, because the project includes residential units, retail space, offices, restaurants and bars.”

While work on the trenchless front is booming, Coleman explains the company has had to overcome roadblocks in recent years. “Realistically speaking, the last few years have been really tough on our business, because development nearly stopped and funding has been cut on infrastructure improvements, but you learn how to operate on a shoestring and diversify to survive,” he remarks.

The recession forced Lyttle to get creative, relying on its diversification from small residential repairs to major municipal wastewater rehabilitation. “Things are getting better, but they’re nowhere near where it was in 2000,” adds Coleman.

Coleman says the company also stands on a solid reputation, shaped by the values of a family ownership. “I have guys who worked for my dad and their sons are involved and their grandsons,” he says. “We’re a true family success story.”

A family success story that has come full circle, now Lyttle Companies maintains and repairs the quality product it originally installed as Lyttle & Barnes Sanitation, but on a much larger scale and Coleman sees more of the same sizable growth down the pipeline.

Published on: November 7, 2014

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